A Blog Full of Hot Air!

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

As Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday is celebrated today with tributes such as Google’s home page, the bold and daring lady from Atchison, Kansas is remembered to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She had also attempted to make a circumnavigational flight around the world when she and her aircraft disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.

Most people are probably wondering at this point why the weather blog is talking about Amelia Earhart and flying planes. Well funny you should ask! Not only does this relentless heat affect our outdoor activities, our lawns, and our electric bills, but also aircraft and aviation. The heat can have negative effects on airplane altitude and performance.

The high temperature readings we have seen create poor flying conditions for pilots. Nowadays with all of the advancements in aircraft this isn’t as big of an issue because these problems have been researched and compensated for with new airplane designs. However, with hot temperatures and high altitudes, the aerodynamic performance of airplanes reduces. The hot temperatures, in a sense, “thin” out the air.  This is because the air molecules are less dense and move at a more rapid pace.  Because there are fewer molecules in a parcel of air, the amount of force that is exerted on an airplanes wings is lower creating less lift to get the airplane into the air. It also affects the mixing ratio of the air and fuel, lowering it causing energy output to decrease (more of a physics nerd than a chemistry nerd so not too keen on the chemistry behind that.. oops!). With these conditions, planes need more space to take off and to land and the efficiency of the aircraft is also reduced.

Now I am not saying I am a detective by any means, BUT when Amelia Earhart was flying around the globe and her plane went down somewhere around Howland Island, it was the beginning of July. That being said, with Howland Island being just to the north of the Equator, the temperatures were very likely hot. And she had a plane that was not as technologically advanced as they are today. Hmmm.. makes you wonder why her plane went down. (We might be on to something here)

Since we have had this long stretch of exhausting hot weather for so long, you can probably see we are running out of things to tell you about it other than it is just stinking hot outside. Therefore, I thought we could play a little game of CSI and explore the science behind the warmer temperatures negative affects on flying, even though it isn’t as much of a concern nowadays unless you have a low performance aircraft, and in that case you may have to take the heat a little more seriously.

Hopefully, we will start to see some patterns of more densely packed air molecules coming our way, aka cooler air, and take a break from the scorching heat.

Your Neighborhood Intern,
Ariele Daniel

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